28/09/2013

Day 9: Nagoya

View of Nagoya City and Hiyasa Park from the TV tower
Sunday, 19 May 2013

Continues from Day 8: Kurobe Gorge and Toyama

Today we were travelling back down to the Taiheiyō Belt Megalopolis to spend the next three days exploring the city of Nagoya!

As mentioned yesterday, breakfast was included at our Concept Hotel WaQ and we went down as soon as possible since we had reserved seats on an early 7:09am train to Nagoya.

The food was similar to yesterday and very delicious, though I unfortunately somehow ate a little onion and was sick for the next few hours. Luckily, we were just sitting on the train during this time.

Speaking about our journey, there are actually two major routes you can follow to travel from Nagoya to Toyama.

The first method takes you almost directly south through the Japanese Alps and passes through the mountain town of Takama and the city of Gifu.

The train is the scenic Limited Express (Wide View) Hida and it takes about four hours to travel the 256km distance.

Our Limited Express Shirasagi arriving at Toyama Station
The other route avoids the mountains altogether and instead travels along the sea of Japan before turning inland at Lake Biwa back towards Nagoya.

The distance is longer at 315km but due to faster speeds the Limited Express Shirasagi train actually makes the journey in 40 fewer minutes.

Even better, the Tokaido Shinkansen Line actually travels between Lake Biwa and Nagoya so if you get a good connection it's possible to change at Maibara station to a much faster Hikari Shinkansen and arrive in as little as three hours and fifteen minutes.

This was what we had planned and were due to arrive into Nagoya at 10:23am.

The trip to Maibara was pretty uneventful; we found somewhere to store our luggage and settled in for the journey.

I remember there were a group of people in front of us who were talking quite loudly. It seemed they had met by co-incidence and were all travelling to an onsen somewhere.

Also!

From the train window I spied a giant Komatsu 930E dump truck; Komatsu are a Japanese company that manufactures heavy mining and construction machinery. The Komatsu 930 is the best selling truck of its class in the entire world and it is truly massive. To give you an idea it's 15m in length, 9m wide and over 7m tall.

That’s about as tall as a human standing on a giraffe’s head.

It can carry 290 tonnes of material when fully laden which results in a total weight of nearly 600 tonnes.

Komatsu have a number of factories around Japan and the truck we saw was located outside of their Awazu Plant in Komatsu City (around here somewhere). Unfortunately I didn't get a picture!

After about two and a half hours we arrived at Maibara station and followed the crowd of people up the escalator to transfer to the shinkansen line. About half way up I realised I had left my boots behind on the train!

I didn't say anything and just took off town the platform and jumped on the train that was luckily still waiting at the platform. Thankfully I was also able to climb back off before it took off again though it was a pretty close call.

I guess if I had failed I could've just stayed on the train all the way to Nagoya.

Also, if I hadn’t managed to get back on also we also could've just waited for it to arrive at Nagoya as well, so it wasn't really that big a deal at all.

Kate actually had a bit of trouble on the escalator as I had dumped the two suitcases and backpacks with her. Lucky she was able to avoid a pile up.
Inside Nagoya Station

After a half an hour shinkansen ride we arrived at Nagoya and made our way to our hotel to drop off our luggage.

Today was the first rainy day we had had so far on our trip though fortunately we didn't get too wet on the way to the Meitetsu Inn Sakuradori hotel we were staying at.

There was actually a route that covered a lot of the distance below ground though we didn't want to risk getting lost down there when we first arrived.

As it was still early we couldn't go to our room yet, but we were able to leave our luggage with the front desk.

Nagoya (名古屋 = Name + Old + Roof) is the fourth most populous city in all of Japan and the capital of the Aichi Prefecture. Its position along the pacific coast between Tokyo and Osaka has helped Nagoya become one of Japan's major ports and an economic powerhouse.

Some of the international corporations headquartered in Nagoya include Yamaha, Brother and Olympus Optical though the main industry is the automotive sector with giants such as Toyota, Mitsubishi Motors, Suzuki and Honda all calling the city home.

Compared to other big cities Nagoya doesn't have quite as much cultural or historical wealth and is therefore often negated by tourists who only get a quick glimpse as they zip by on a shinkansen bound for the better known Kansai or Kanto regions.

However, those digging a little deeper into Japan will find that the city does have a decent amount of sites worth visiting and we had personally allocated one day to explore the city in general and another half day to join a Toyota factory tour.

The Nagoya TV Tower in Sakae
Today was the general exploration day and out of the many attractions listed in the Japan book we hadn’t actually decided what we wanted to do.

Since it had cleared up a little we spent an amount of time just wandering around the city. Kate really wanted an apple and I a Dr. Pepper but for some reason we were completely unable to find either of these at the half dozen convenience stores we scoured.

In the end Kate settled for a zero calorie sugar free jelly. I think it had chunks of probably fake apple.

Eventually we decided to head down to Sakae and ended up walking the full three kilometres from Nagoya station, which took us some time.

Sakae is Nagoya's major entertainment district and as mentioned is located a little distance from the main station.

Major landmarks include the 180 metre tall Nagoya TV tower as well as the relatively newly build Oasis 21 complex which hosts shops, restaurants, bus terminals and cultural events.
Taiyaki; serious business

Between and around the TV Tower and Oasis complex is the Hiyasa park which overlies a large underground shopping centre that stretches between the three different subway line stations located in Sakae.

When we finally arrived at the district we found that there was some sort of university festival/open day taking place at the base of the Nagoya TV Tower.

We had a look around at the many stalls but most stuff wasn't too interesting as it was just university information- plus it was only just starting. 

There were a few food vans around as well and a few people were dressed up in interesting costumes!

Also!

We saw a "Welcome Koala" on top of one of the nearby phone booths!

Koalas seem pretty popular in Japan for a foreign species and we have even seen them featured as the shape of popular snack foods.

The big TV tower looked pretty interesting so we decided to go up and have a look. There was a shop inside that seemed quite unrelated to the tower but we were able to buy a ticket from a counter in a different outer area. Ticket in hand we walked over to guy looking after the elevators and he said we could instead walk up the stairs to the top which would net us a reward.

Normally we would be all over something like that but we were dead tired and absolutely knackered so decided to wuss out and just take the elevator. The guy tried to talk us into it a bit and seemed pretty disappointed when we refused!

So we were lifted up the tower.

At the top we found a few different floors from which we were able to get a good view of Sakae and Nagoya city.

The topmost floor was actually open air which was pretty neat though it was a bit windy and chilly.

Also, despite the relatively large number of people down below, it was pretty empty up here, which allowed us to easily survey the city from all directions.
 
The cityscape seemed to go on forever!


We noticed that there were quite a few expensive brands in the vicinity and even managed to spot another native Australian animal!

This one was a Kangaroo and it looked like it was a mascot for some sort of delivery service.

From the tower I could also see Comic Toranoana which is a major Dōjin store selling manga related goods.

The shop I could see was the biggest in Japan with a full seven floors and had only very recently moved to a location closer to Nagoya station. This one seemed to be still open as people were going in and out though we could see lots of packed up boxes through the windows.

Since it was about lunchtime and we were in a big city we decided to get Ōtoya, which is a chain restaurant we had thoroughly enjoyed on previous trips. I consulted Google Maps and found that there was one located nearby and used the map plus our aerial view of the city to pin down the location.

On the way back down the tower we saw some girls get the reward for climbing which turned out to be chocolate. We were a little jealous!

With our tummies grumbling we hurried down to where we thought Ōtoya ought to be and were surprised to find nothing there!

All we could see were some plain looking buildings containing things like dentists and cheap offices.

Closer inspection though revealed a small faded sign stating that there was food on the bottom floor and a short elevator ride later we found Ōtoya in an underground food court!

Unfortunately there was a massive line outside!

We decided to stay despite the line though as it appeared to be moving pretty quickly and we were sure to be served long before we’d be able to decide upon anything else.
There was a good system set up as we were given a menu to browse after adding our name to the list and once we drew closer to the front of the line our orders were taken.

This meant that our meals were brought to us not long after sitting down which was fantastic!

Kate got some sort of port stew thing and I got my usual katsu- I think it was pork this time. I also got the drinks bar as I was pretty thirsty.

Both meals were extremely delicious!


After lunch we went back out to Sakae and wandered around for a bit trying to decide what to do next. It was a little tricky as there was a fair number of things to choose from and we didn't want to miss out on anything. According to the Yahoo Weather! forecast app on my phone the heavens were apparently going to open soon, so we wanted to pick something indoors.

Eventually we decided upon the newly opened SCMAGLEV and Railway Park. This train museum is run by JR- Central but for some bizarre reason it's located near the terminal station of the non-JR Aonami line.

The line was actually used only for freight prior to 2004 but now serves both people and goods. Anyway, it meant we had to catch the Higashiyama subway line to Nagoya from Sakae (five minutes, ¥200) and then transfer to the Aonami line to catch a train to Kinjofuto Station.

Most of the trip was above ground so we were able to get a good view of Nagoya as we travelled down to the port side station. We were able to use our Suica Card on both trips as well, which meant we could just touch on and off without worrying about buying a ticket.

By the time we arrived at Kinjofuto Station around half an hour it had well and truly started to rain. The museum was near the train station but not directly attached and somehow we'd both managed to leave our umbrellas in our suitcases. Luckily we were able to walk most of the way under cover and only got slightly wet.

As expected, the complex looked really new and inside we found a manned counter and some ticket vending machines. We opted to use the machine and after buying our entry tickets (¥1000) also decided to get an English Audio guide. They were ¥500 each and as we just paid for one to share between us.

The actual device, which we got from a manned counter, turned out to be an ipod with a specialised app and we had to give our passport details to rent it. Once we had finished with the guide at the end of our visit the paper Kate had used to fill out her details was shredded right front of us.

JNR Class C62 Steam Locomotive
Just renting one turned out to be a bad idea as it was pretty difficult to share, and I ended just letting Kate use it. Otherwise the audio guide was very good and had a wealth of detailed information- probably enough to spend the entire day listening to it if you were really keen.

Right, so- on to the museum!

The first room was a large dimly lit space with three big trains in speeding out of a wall containing projected videos.

The theme was something like speed records in the past, present and future with representative trains chosen for each period.

Starting chronologically and from the left we found a JNR Class C62 steam locomotive.

These trains were built in the late 1940's and were the largest and fastest passenger steam trains to ever operate in Japan.

The C62 were built to haul Tsubame Express services between Tokyo and Osaka and later served the Teine Express between Otaru and Hakodate in Hokkaido after the Tōkaidō Main Line had become electrified.

The trains were finally retired in 1973 through a number of preserved examples still remain.

The C62 17 preserved here at the SCMagleve and Railway park is actually particularly notable as it was used to break the speed record for a narrow-gauge steam locomotive in 1954 upon reaching a speed of 129km/h.


The train was pretty interesting to look at with lots of knobs, valves and mechanical machinery.

I find the various mechanical solutions used in the past to be very intriguing- nowadays everything is so small there's not really any way to visualise it. The wheels were pretty cool as well.

The C62 is also notable for featuring in the anime vintage manga and anime series Galaxy Express 999.
 
Next was a 300X Shinkansen which was a Class 995 six car experimental Shinkansen developed in the mid 1990's to test speeds greater than 300 km/h.


It looks similar to the shinkansen currently in service today and the data collected from the 600 test runs conducted was no doubt critical in the development of the modern rolling stock.

The tests were conducted on the Tōkaidō Main Line main line track between Maibara and Kyoto and in 1996 the train set a new high speed record when it reached a blistering 443.0 km/h!

Finally, the far right train is a MLX01-1 Superconducting Magnetically Levitated (Aka Maglev) Vehicle which is the train model responsible for setting the current rail vehicle land speed record of 581km/h in 2003.


That excludes rail guided rocket sleds by the way, as strapping on a rocket to obtain speeds exceeding 10,000km/h is hardly comparable.

It was actually possible to walk inside this train and we found it to closely resemble the cabin of an aircraft with small windows and overhead lockers.

There was also a surprising lack of seats!

Maglev train technology in Japan is the culmination of decades of research and construction of the Chūō Shinkansen Maglev Line between Tokyo and Osaka was finally approved in 2011.

The 18.4km Yamanashi test track has recently been extended to 42km and will continue to be expanded to form the commercial line between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 and all the way to Osaka by 2045. This will slash the current two and a half hour Tokyo-Osaka journey down to only one hour.

The later date seems pretty intense though, personally I'll be well over 50 years- surely we'll be able to teleport by then!

Meanwhile, Australia still probably wouldn't even have a High Speed Railway line.






Anyway, after those first three trains we went into the next room which was a big open area containing the rest of the museum.

There were heaps of trains on display and I'm defiantly not going to go through them all here; since you can find a good overview on the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park's website.

Naturally, the trains on display were from times past and we spend a good long while walking around and in some cases inside the various locomotives and railcars.


There was some English information available at each train as well as the wealth of additional information on the audio guide.

The oldest model on display was 100 years old and other notable vehicles include some early electric trains, the Dr. Yellow Shinkansen track inspector as well as some early shinkansen models.














Not this one
One of these early shinkansen series trains we looked in was interesting as it had a full kitchen and dining room on board.

So passengers were able to eat a . full . meal at a table while gliding past Mt. Fuji.















In the same big area we also found a number of highly interactive displays that explained how operations and maintenance worked on the railway lines of Japan.

We could even use an early ticket printing machine to make a mock ticket with our name and then send through some example ticket gates.

At the front edge we found some simulators which you could use if you managed to successfully win a lottery draw.

Entry into the lottery was included in the price of the general admission ticket though you did actually have to specifically register.
I think you could pull on this to feel the weight or tension of the overhead wires.

If successful you are then charged a small additional fee.

The simulations on offer included driving conventional and shinkansen trains as well as another that let you experience the less glamorous but still no doubt thrilling duties of a conductor.

Although I would have liked a turn I wasn’t particularly interested in registering so didn’t get a chance to drive or conduct.

We did though get to have a turn on one other simulator that didn’t require any reservations or lottery drawing. It was for the Maglev line though you could only participate as a passenger.

It was interesting watching the scenery blur by through the windows as our speed rapidly increased- I'd really like to have a go on the real thing one day!

 The final major attraction on the ground floor was a huge railway diorama which is one of the largest in all of Japan. Periodically the room darkens and then gradually lightens with a simulated sunrise as a full day is rapidly played out with trains travelling between detailed miniature versions of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.







After watching the diorama we went up to the second floor to find some more historical information, displays for kids and a café where Kate got some ice-cream. It's was getting pretty close to closing time so we didn't spent much time up here though I do remember looking at a display that projected various iterations of the Tōkaidō Main Line to show how it developed from its beginnings in 1872.

Once Kate had finished her treat it was time to leave and we walked back down to Kinjofuto Station to catch a train back to Nagoya.

Overall the train museum was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and would be a definite must see if you’re even slightly into trains.

After arriving at Nagoya we walked the short distance to our hotel and checked in. Unfortunately it seems like I didn't manage to get any photos of the Meitetsu Inn Sakuradori hotel we were staying at and can't really remember much about it. I think it was a petty standard small room with a queen bed and a unit bath room. There was a laundry down on the ground floor- more on that tomorrow.

Our day wasn't quite over yet as I still wanted to go back to check out the Osu Shopping arcade which is Nagoya's hot spot for anime and manga related goods.

To get there we caught a subway from Nagoya station to Kamimaezu station and walked the short distance to the two long covered shopping streets.

Like in Nakano last week, we decided to split up meet back at an agreed spot an hour later at 8:30pm.

During this time, Kate had a quick look around at a few of the shops but spent most of her time in a nearby Starbucks drinking tea, eating a few snacks and watching TV.

A sign outside gamers
The Osu area is frequently compared to Akihabara though the reality is that it's really nothing of the sort. Most of the shops are pretty mainstream however there are definitely a few dedicated anime shops sprinkled about.

The three biggest are Gamers, Mandarake and Kids Land. Apparently there's also a Gee Store and K Books though I wasn't able to work out where they were.

Anyway, the  first shop I wanted to check out was Mandarake and on the way over I made a quick visit to Gamers. The merchandise here is apparently identical to the Akihabara (latest and greatest goods) branch though there's a lot less since the shop is much smaller.

I did a quick lap store though didn't stop to browse since I was interested in buying manga and I'd be able to get much better prices at Mandarake.

Mandarake is arguably the biggest store in Nagoya (rivalled only by Toranoana- more on that store tomorrow) buys and sells mostly second hand products which, as well as manga, include figurines, dakimakura, cosplay goods, character goods and doujinshi.

One of this Mandarake's specialities is its dakimakura (抱き枕 = Hug + Pillow) collection; these are long pillow cases that have characters printed on them.

The Nagoya Mandarake Store in Osu
All I'll say is that they're certainly er unique, and very expensive!

The cheapest start at around ¥10,000 ($100)- just for the cover.

Apparently this Mandarake is also well known for its abundant figurine collection that turns a shopping trip into a treasure hunt due some terrible organisation on the shop's part.

As stated previously though my main aim was manga and I upon arriving I headed straight for the relevant floor.

Unfortunately I didn't get much time to browse as the shop closed at 8pm and everyone was asked to leave.

I don't think I got the chance to buy anything at all!

To make things worse, Gamers and all the other shops in the shopping arcade also closed and the place rapidly became more or less deserted.

I didn’t even bother going to Kids Land, which is supposed to be a large collection of plastic models, games and figurines.

I wasn't due to meet Kate for another half an hour but figured I'd easily to find her if I search the shopping streets. Most of the shops seemed concentrated within two six hundred metre long parallel covered arcades and I did an entire lap looking for Kate.

I couldn't find her at all! And just had to nervously wait at our agreed location. I hoped she was ok!

To my great relief Kate showed up right on 8:30pm and explained that she had just spent most of the time relaxing in a nearby coffee shop.

Although the trip was a bit of a failure I still managed to have a look inside both the gamers and the Mandarake so all was not completely lost. We also had another night yet to go in Nagoya which I’d be able to use to check out the Animate and Comic Toranoana located near Nagoya station.

As for the rest of today; I think we might've stopped somewhere so I could have something to eat but apart from that we just headed back to our hotel and called it a night!

Tommorow we planned to venture out of Nagoya and head down to the Ise-Shrine area though we actually ended up visiting the Arashiyama area of Kyoto instead!

We had heaps of fun and I'll be sure to write up our experiences in the next post. Look forward to it!

If you enjoyed reading this post or found any of the information useful please consider leaving a comment. I really appreciate them and they give me encouragement to keep writing about the rest of our trip.

I'm also happy to answer any questions!

Continue reading Day 10: Arashiyama (Kyoto)

6 comments:

  1. Can you please explain what a Suica card is? Is it like an inter city transport card that can be used in all cities, or just Nagoya? The Japan Rail pass cannot be used within cities can it?

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    1. Hi Ginger!

      Thank you for leaving a comment!

      The Suica card is what's called an IC card: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_003.html

      It's like the Oyster card in London, or the Go Card in Brisbane.

      The Suica is the JR Tokyo/East Japan variant but it's been linked up with cards in a number of different Japanese cities so they can all be used interchangeably (including in Nagoya). The link above explains in much better detail.


      The Japan Rail pass can be used for JR travel within cities as long as it's JR rail. So in Tokyo it can be used on the JR Yamanote line, but not on the Ginza subway line. You can also use it on a few JR bus lines (not highway buses) and on one of the ferries to Miyajima.

      As the pass costs more than 2800-4000yen a day it's doesn't pay off if you only use it for travel within cities, but if you happen to have it active and are in a city (on the days between your long travel) it's worth using.

      Let me know if you neeed more clarification!

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    2. Thanks! I'll have a look. Am loving the detail in your blog by the way. :)

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  2. Hi Eric. Excellent blog! Just wondering if you know if Toyota will hold suitcases while I take their tour.

    Clarence

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    Replies
    1. Hi Clarence!

      Thanks for reading!

      While I remember that they had really small lockers for small things, such as a phone or wallet, I can't remember if they had big lockers or not.

      Your best bet would be to contact them directly to ask if they would hold it.
      This pamphlet has phone numbers:
      http://www.toyota.co.jp/jp/about_toyota/facility/toyota_kaikan/pdf/toyotakaikan_e.pdf

      So +81-565-29-3355

      You might also want to consider using a luggage forwarding service, or leaving you luggage at a Nagoya station locker.

      Sorry I can't be of more help!

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